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Concierge Care A Growing Health Care Trend

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Do you think going to the doctor is somewhat of a hassle these days? From getting a timely appointment to sitting in a crowded waiting room and having less than 15 minutes of face time with your physician, trips to the doctor can be frustrating to say the least.

Imagine having your doctor at your beck and call, 24 hours a day, in the comfort of your own home. It's the latest trend in health care, but it can come with a high cost.

Flu season is just about here, but what's worse than all the coughing and sneezing? Some say it's having to venture out of the house and wait in the doctor's office.

However, many now have a medical professional showing up at their door when they're not feeling well – at any time of the day – with a prescription for whatever medication is needed. The newest health care trend is called "concierge care."

"You see people as people, you know, in the context of the life they live," Manhattan internist Dr. Joseph Mulvehill said.

Dr. Mulvehill opened a concierge practice last year.

"We take a lot of time, we explore their issues, we take into consideration where they are in their lives," Dr. Mulvehill said.

Dr. Mulvehill said all that can't possibly be done in the 10-minute visit typically allotted by most doctors these days.

Nurse practitioner Raymond Zakhari is also in the business of delivering concierge care.

"I came up with the idea as a result of my own health care experience," Zakhari said. "I made my appointment to get a physical, and they told me the appointment would be eight weeks later."

Zakhari said many of his patients are busy professionals who don't have a lot of extra time. When they need him, they send him a text message or an e-mail or they call his cell phone directly.

He makes a house call for just about every condition, and occasionally he even brings his therapy dog. Everything else is done online, from billing to sending lab results, and he even sends videotaped diagnoses.

"Your blood work was essentially normal – the only abnormality was your vitamin D level," Zakhari said in one such video.

All of the convenience, though, comes at a cost. Most concierge practices don't accept insurance and require patients to pay up front. Depending on the patient's needs, visits can run several hundred dollars.

Some practices like Mulvehill's charge an annual fee, ranging up to several thousand dollars a year, depending on the level of service the patient requires.

Still, patients like Sylvia Woods say it's worth it. She was so tired of having to remind her primary care doctor who she was each visit that she and her husband recently converted to Zakhari's concierge care.

"What don't I like about it – it's comfortable, I don't have to go anywhere," Woods said.

Critics of concierge care say it's unfair because not everyone can afford to pay out-of-pocket. While they don't accept insurance, though, many concierge practices say they'll help patients submit bills for reimbursement.

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